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And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:32 ESV) With these words the Apostle Paul said goodbye to the brothers and sisters of Ephesus. Today at International Lutheran Church we are bold to celebrate at the most challenging times of our lives when we say “goodbye” to good friends and loved ones.

Many of you know that I have been away for several weeks. In my absence, others have cared and nurtured you in the faith with the gifts that God has given them. This has been a precious time for me personally as I was able to commend my earthly father to the arms of my Heavenly Father. I had many long sleepless nights wondering what I could do to make my father comfortable or how I could best care for him. Yet God is the One who knows our every need and cares for us. He is the only One who can give us life and sustain that life. He is the One who even gave His one and only Son that we would have new life again and that we would not die eternally. Yes, Jesus is the Good Shepherd. 

Still it is hard to say “goodbye.” We can see this in Paul’s words as he commends the brothers and sisters of Ephesus to God’s care. He had worked with them for three years and through many challenges. He was ready to depart and complete the task that God had given him. And yet we can sense the struggle this is for Paul. As I write this, our LCMS mission team in Asia just completed a Zoom “Commendation Service” for three families that have served in Asia for many years. Sometimes it is hard to sum up and to express all we want to say in such a short amount of time. Even with tears, though, Paul sees that we still have hope. We are not alone and those we love are not abandoned. He gently commends and puts into the hands of God the people who have meant so much to him. And we can, too.

We live in the hope of the resurrection now! Our faith is not just for when we die so that we go to heaven. Our faith in God and the power of His resurrection is also for this moment so that we can live now in the faith and confidence that God is caring for us as well as the people we love and care for. Just as a mother cares for her children, God cares for us. Even more so, He gives us what our earthly parents cannot give - the forgiveness of our sins. Each day we start fresh and know even more clearly what Jesus’ death on the cross really meant. Each day we are reminded of how great is the Father’s love for us that He cares for us even when we did not acknowledge Him.

Today, we also take a moment to thank God for our mothers. Through their labour, God brought us into the world. Through their work, God fed and clothed us. Through their sleepless nights, God answered their prayers and brought peace into our lives. They may not have been perfect, and maybe they would be the first to admit that, yet God used them to do something truly amazing - He cared and continues to care for you and me. In the same way, each of us is used by God to care for those right around us. He may even bring us to other places from time to time and from place to place, just so we can go on caring for those right around us.

Herein is also wisdom for how we live and commend each other into God’s care. He uses all of us to care for those right around us. As we live in the hope of the resurrection, we live knowing that our Good Shepherd Jesus Christ cares for us.

Pastor Carl